The Only Way Out Is Within

06/07/2011 08:32 am ET | Updated Aug 07, 2011
  • Ed and Deb Shapiro Radio Hosts: Going Out of Your Mind. Mindfulness, Meditation & Yoga Experts; Award-Winning Authors: BE THE CHANGE,YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND; Coaches, Corporate Consultants; bloggers

"The only 'failed meditation' is one we leave behind on the cushion when we go about our day."
-- Stefnoble

Did you ever wonder why this world of ours is so mad? Everyone wants something, very few seem truly content. It seems like we humans spend a huge amount of time trying to find some form of satisfaction and happiness in the world, whether through our relationships, profession, possessions, travel and so on. Yet, due to the impermanent and insubstantial nature of reality, we are so often disappointed. Hence the realization that, if looking for happiness outside of ourselves doesn't work, perhaps we should try looking for it inside ourselves. We are like the musk deer that has a beautiful smell in its belly yet searches the forest looking for the smell!

Whether through time-tested traditional practices such as meditation or simply being quiet and reflective, taking time to just be with ourselves has both an immediate and an enduring effect. We get more peaceful. We get happier. We get kinder, more compassionate and wiser. We are not disappointed. What more could we want?

"Meditation means I don't have to dwell on unpleasant circumstances and feelings. It means I can choose to change my perspective and look at life from the point of view that reminds me that I'm part of the whole. It means I don't have to stay mired in sadness... meditation means I'm more happy and at peace than I'd be without it."
-- From a comment to our previous blog by CaveatMagnusFrater

Meditation is the greatest gift we can give ourselves but it is easily misunderstood. Just as there are numerous choices in the world -- where we live, what we wear, what work we do, etc. -- so too there are many choices when it comes to meditation techniques or forms of inner journeying. However, we often see people holding tightly to their method or technique as if it were a matter of dire importance, which misses the deeper meaning of meditation.

In our blog last week, "Meditation: Not What You Think," we made the point that meditation is actually not any particular technique or method but an experience of radiant emptiness that arises naturally as all trying stops. This generated many interesting comments, of which here are just a few:

"I think that the more one sees mediation as a goal, as a destination versus as merely another path on the journey; the more one tends to strive, but never arrive. Meditation is about "letting go" -- and that includes holding on to it as a goal. Meditation is not something you 'do' because it is something that you 'be'."
-- PenguinLinux

"Meditation is very personal, always evolving and nearly impossible to describe. Years ago it was a way for me to change negative patterns and overcome depression and other problems; today it seems more about letting go of deeper layers of ego and allowing for healing, which is necessary for me to feel more compassion. I think the Buddha had that right: if there is a goal, it's to live a life with more compassion. That can only happen when we get ourselves out of the way. A person may 'see' the light of an aura, feel a wave of blissful energy, but I don't think that's the goal, you still come back to yourself and the human condition."
-- KYZipster

"As long as we hold the intention to be present and compassionate, our experience of meditation will unfold quite naturally, whatever techniques we practice... Whether we are focused on a single sensation like the breath or noticing all that arises and falls away in our spacious field of awareness, we are reconnecting with our natural ability to be present and to feel our connection with all beings."
-- Stefnoble

"'Sitting on the cushion for me is no practice,' asserted Kabir Iskander. Silence fell over his listeners. One could hear the air rapidly drawn in as they gasped with sudden surprise over his words. 'It is the manner by which this understanding is expressed. I sit not to learn about myself or about matters of the spirit but as an expression of that which is already within me. When sitting there is no purpose, when standing no aim, and when walking no destination. It precedes the sitting, standing, and walking. Namaste.' And Kabir Iskander walked off the stage and returned to writing his poetry." From "How to Live in the Spirit" by Kabir Iskander
-- Pratitya

In other words, meditation is not about reaching higher states of consciousness, having visions, or even or feeling good -- although that is fine if it does happen. It is just about stopping and being with whatever arises, whether good or not so good. It is about freedom in this very moment! We are all part of the same all pervading conscious.

A favorite story of ours is about a monk who meditated for many, many years always longing for a sign that he was progressing, that his meditation was worthwhile. Then one day he suddenly had a vision of a beautiful golden Buddha that filled his mind. He was so happy he ran to his master to share it with him. The master was very pleased. He praised the young monk: "This is very good, very good," and then added: "And if you keep meditating hopefully it will go away!"

What are your thoughts on this? Do you look more out or more in? Do comment below.

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